After some last minute packing and remembering all the things we forgot to do we finally left Glasgow about midday on Tuesday 8th May. Hotfooting it as far as the Birmingham ring roads before we hit any major traffic, not too shabby. Taking advice from my dad we took the toll road and boosted through, even stopping at the fancy services on the way. After an eta of 8 hours we finally arrived in Hartfield around 11pm, the van is awesome but definitely a cruiser not a sprinter!
A day in Brighton with zero driving followed and a long overdue catch up with an old friend I met in Aus 13 years ago, how time flies! If you are in Brighton I highly recommend the restaurant Casalingo on Preston St, the food was delicious and beautifully presented. Waking early on Thursday we had an hour to drive to Newhaven and the ferry to Dieppe. Having compared the ferry costs we had decided that this was cheaper and having 6 weeks we can afford to lose a day or two to driving to save 600 euros, only the cash saved on ferries goes on French road tolls! Our advice now would be get the longer ferry and less driving!
Arriving in France we hit the lovely (expensive) motorways and cruised down to the Loire Valley and the town of Montjean Sur-Loire which was super cute, and very french with a massive church towering over the tiny town. Picking our spot in the Promenade camp site we had a walk into town and scoped out the supermarket for the next day and found the only open eaterie and had the classic French dish of Thai curry for our first meal.
Friday we stocked up on cheese at the supermarket and had a lovely, leisurely cycle along the Loire in the sun and moderate to strong side wind the whole way. An evening stroll up to the church for amazing views around the valley before BBQ for dinner on the campsite and I only cremated the spuds a little bit (ahem).
Saturday we trucked on South and crossed the border into Spain. No physical border but the drivers seemed immediately more crazy, the roads merged and split on a whim and I felt death may be imminent right up until we parked for the night at the campsite in San Sebastian. The next day we went into the town and had a lovely walk around the sea walls, occasionally getting a soaking and up the hill to the massive Jesus statue before heading down to the windy little streets in search of beer and tapas. Bellies full we wandered out and about the streets before heading back to camp in a full on monsoon, or so it seemed.
Monday we set off from San Sebastian headed for Potes, lots of amazing driving routes through mountains with more hairpin bends than a season of F1! The views cannot be described and my photos do it no justice, it was simply stunning, occasional snowy peaks, lush greens, rugged grey rocks, noisy rivers, waterfalls, all around us. I finally felt like the holiday had started. We stopped at the tiny village of La Hermida as the road to Potes is closed, we could go around but instead we will relax here, try and find a restaurant and park up by the river with views of the waterfall and just enjoy.
On leaving we drove through some amazing gorge scenery, apparently one of the most dangerous roads in Spain, so either the reviews were exaggerating or we have become hardened to scary driving, it was brilliant! A couple of photo stops and we ended our drive at the lakes we had set off for, well, almost. The van was starting to get a little hot so we stopped at the first parking bay for a rest and saw a sign for a walk of 1hour 15, so figured why not walk and let the van get a well earned rest? Well, it was a great decision, we set off, passing some massive birds of prey swooping and landing nearby then rounded a corner to a massive valley with views for miles and distant snowy peaks. The route crossed the valley and climbed back up some invisible route past a waterfall and onwards to the lakes. Had the walk been less dramatic the lakes may have been a let down but the alpine scenery and elevation made it an impressive sight! Walking back the same way was great fun, enjoying the sun and solitude as most people drove to the top, missing the brilliant walk. Arriving back at the van we were greeted by two wild pigs on the snuffle for food, friendly wee guys, but no food here!
Now it is Thursday 17th May and we have crossed into Portugal, at a campsite near Porto, just filled up on bbq with bbq pineapple for dessert, yum! Tomorrow we visit Porto city and probably sample a port or six! Week one down, five to go!